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Matt Wagner and Kelley Jones bring the horror with 'Dracula — Book 1: The Impaler'

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Matt Wagner and Kelley Jones bring the horror with ‘Dracula — Book 1: The Impaler’

The first in a series of OGNS explores the unseen nightmares of Vlad Dracula.

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I’ve made it no secret that we’re currently experiencing Dracula oversaturation. Heck, there’s as many stories as there are shallow graves courtesy of the lord of the vampires. But of we’re talking old-school, Bram Stoker-adjacent Dracula stories, then I can still get down. Especially when said stories are from comics legends like Matt Wagner and Kelley Jones.

The long-time friends have joined forces for Dracula—Book 1: The Impaler, which serves as their first substantial collaboration and the first of a “series of all-new, 100+page graphic novels.” In it, the pair explore “the secret history of Dracula” with tales that will “fill in these tantalizing gaps to provide a terrifying portrait of Vlad Dracula.” It’s Dracula like we’ve never seen him before and more familiar than ever — a character study of a creature who has terrified and tantalized audiences for decades.

Dracula—Book 1: The Impaler is currently crowdfunding via Kickstarter. In the lead up to the campaign, Wagner and Jones were kind enough to answer a few of our questions, like their friendship and partnership, the sustained appeal of Dracula, and what to expect from the other books, among other bloody great topics.

If you’d like to contribute to the campaign, head here.

Dracula

Courtesy of Matt Wagner and Kelley Jones.

AIPT: Matt, why does Dracula remain such a massively compelling figure after so many years and countless other projects.

Matt Wagner: Well, in a sense, he’s the first supervillain. Of course, there have been both supernatural and earthly bad guys haunting the four corners of the world’s mythologies since the beginning of time. But Dracula first appeared in the golden age of the novel, a storytelling format that not only provided a denser, more complex narrative than any oral tradition but that also added the indelible longevity of print; that modern technology provided a real immortality for the vampire lord. Since its first publication in 1897, Dracula has never been out of print.

And unlike so many gods or demons from ancient myth, Bram Stoker’s classic title character had the vestiges of once having been a man…a man who became a literal monster. And, like all the best super-villains, he had a grand scheme to use his preternatural powers to spread his power and influence over an unsuspecting kingdom. We see that trope utilized in every superhero and fantasy narrative all the way up to today. Dracula is the prototype…the OG, badass, supernatural mother-fucker!

AIPT: Kelley, you previously tackled the King of Vampires with the Batman & Dracula trilogy. How do these depictions compare, and have you learned something in creating Dracula?

Kelley Jones: In Red Rain, Dracula was a representation of evil and more monolithic. He was corruption and death personified. His back story didn’t play into things as an aspect of his character. He was the reckoning of Gotham and appeared there as the shadows come to life for the city and the centuries of its own corruption.

Matt Wagner and Kelley Jones bring the horror with 'Dracula — Book 1: The Impaler'

Courtesy of Matt Wagner and Kelley Jones.

For Dracula—The Impaler, he’s a desperate man having to give everything to maintain his country and the power he holds over it against overwhelming odds. In the soul of this man, the darkest part of him feels justified in any brutal act he may commit because he thirsts for the power to defeat his enemies. Dracula is someone to be feared regardless of his cursed existence and it colors how I portray him.

AIPT: Matt, this is supposed to be the first in a series of graphic novels. What does #1 set up and can you tease the rest of the story arc/books?

MW: Bram Stoker’s classic novel creates and portrays arguably the most famous literary characters of all time, but it leaves many aspects of Dracula’s history and persona only hinted at and thus, incredibly intriguing and mysterious. This series of books will fill in these tantalizing gaps and provide a more complete and terrifying portrait of the infamous vampire lord. And I want to make it clear…this isn’t yet another retelling of the novel in comics form. We’re bringing you the never-before told stories behind the story…the sinister tales hidden in the shadows of the original novel. Our first graphic novel explores Dracula’s bloody history and his tenure at Satan’s legendary seminary of the dark arts, the Scholomance, a fact of his history that’s mentioned twice in the novel. We learn what led Dracula to seek out Satan’s tutelage and how he became the lord of the undead. The other three books in our Dracula series will reveal other aspects of his life and story that take place in and around the events portrayed in the novel.

AIPT: Kelley, what does working with Matt, a long-time friend, do for you as an artist? How does he support your efforts?

KJ:: Working with Matt frees me in that I know there are no boundaries in the course of putting his story to paper. I get to just go to those places without hesitation because Matt has totally convinced me of the world he’s created. He never takes me out of the story because of the depth of his sincerity in the telling of it. And if I believe it, the reader will as well. I think he’s done something singular and remarkable with Dracula. I know it’s something I’ve never read or seen anything like. Best of all it really is horrifying!

Matt Wagner and Kelley Jones bring the horror with 'Dracula — Book 1: The Impaler'

Courtesy of Matt Wagner and Kelley Jones.

MW: If I can shoehorn my way in to add something to this question…

As I was scripting these tales, I was always writing to what I saw as Kelley’s strengths and thinking, “Man…Kelley is gonna draw the hell outta this!” And then, he’d send me this fucking magnificent art and it always proved to be more dramatic and visceral than I’d ever dared hope. This really has been a dream project for both of us, I think…the absolute magnum opus of everything we might have dreamed it would be.

AIPT:  Matt, you’ve been doing indie comics for ages. What do you make of Kickstarter as a new phase/option, especially for books and projects like this one?

MW: As you said, I’ve been at the vanguard of the indy comics scene for over 40 years. Those of us involved in the early days of that rebellious movement wanted to do things our own way, to more fairly participate in the success of our own creations and to not have to sacrifice our intellectual property rights to any corporate entity. I see crowdfunding projects and venues such as Kickstarter as the next logical step in that revolution. Back in the fledgling days of my career and creator’s rights, we saw the rise of the independent direct sales market…where comic book stores were able to sell comics directly to a dedicated and devoted audience as opposed to the sort of haphazard display our same efforts received at standard mainstream newsstands.

Dracula

Courtesy of Matt Wagner and Kelley Jones.

In a sense, crowdfunding is just taking that same aesthetic one step farther, by enabling buyers to very directly support the projects and the creators they love…without anyone having to deal with a middleman. Certainly, I don’t want to see crowdfunding utterly supplant comic book stores, and I don’t think it will. Not everyone enjoys the same sort of retail experience and there are plenty of buyers who prefer the cornucopia of products available in a mercantile space as opposed to an online campaign. But I think both venues can exist side-by-side quite nicely and that will make for a stronger industry, happier creators and readers and, as a result…just better comics all around. Win-win-WIN!

AIPT: Kelley, do you have any favorite Dracula stories/titles you’ve drawn on for this project?

KJ: I told Matt at the very beginning of my love of Hammer films’ portrayal of Dracula because of his ferocity and cruelty which made his drinking blood secondary to me. Those rattled around in my head. But really any and every version of Dracula influenced both of us in some way. The character has an amazingly rich history in all forms of media…he’s an archetype and we’re trying to dig down to the core of what makes that work. We’re both insanely proud of this project and can’t wait for our readers to see and enjoy our take on one of the most famous fictional characters the world has ever known…the vampire lord, DRACULA!

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